Saturday, March 3, 2012



The title of my homily for this Saturday in the First Week of Lent  is, “Oh, It Means That?”


Before I came to Annapolis I worked on the road in Ohio - and various other places - giving parish missions. Some priest in some parish told the following story at supper one evening. He was saying Mass and this baby was crying - and babies crying didn’t bother him. “In fact,” he added, “I liked it, because the parish I had just been in was all old people and no babies.”

“Well, after Mass,” he said, “this lady came up to me complaining about the lady with the baby - how she shouldn’t been there - and should have taken herself and the baby outside. Then the complainer added, ‘That Lady with the baby is obviously Spanish. What is she doing here?’”

The priest said, “I was surprised at all this - not angry - but surprised - so  I said to the lady after some silence, ‘Isn’t that what it means to love one another?’”

“Big pause.”  The he said, the lady said, “Oh, it means that?”


In today’s gospel, Jesus says to love our enemies. In today’s gospel, Jesus says, “What’s so great about loving and greeting only your own?”

I don’t know about you, but I like to hear these gospels over and over again, because I need to be challenged by Jesus’ words over and over again.

There are two or three kinds of people: those we like and those we don’t understand or can’t stand.  Life is easy with those we like - but Jesus wants us to love the pains - the drainers - the different - the strange rangers.

“Oh, It Means That?”

I don’t know about you, but I could relate to the title of that book, “Up The Down Staircase.”

Thank goodness for fire codes - because that means  there are back doors - other stair cases - because sometimes some people wear us out.  I had a funny one recently. I snook out the back door, so as not to be caught by so and so - and surprise, he was waiting for me in the garden.

When we priests come down the aisle for Sunday Masses - sometimes we hear the words, “Oh no, not him!”

That hurts. That kills morale. That’s a wipe out.

And I’m a priest 46 ½ years now - and I know we priests say the same thing about some parishioners.

That’s the nitty gritty stuff of life. And this doesn’t just happen in churches,  it happens at family weddings and funerals and at the work place. And if I hear Jesus in today’s gospel and at various times, this is exactly where Jesus goes - when he says, “Turn the other cheek. Go the extra mile. Take up the cross.”

No wonder they killed him. A tiny whispered “Oh no!” when we come down the aisle is nothing compared to the whole crowd screaming, “Crucify him.”

“Oh, it means that?”

Yup, it means that - and a lot more.

“Oh no!”


Those who get this - and try to live this - who try to be like God who sends his sun [SUN] - and Son [SON] and rain [RAIN] and reign [REIGN] on the just as the unjust as we heard in today’s gospel - will be considered peculiar - as we heard in today’s first reading. God is peculiar and calls us to be peculiarly his own. God is also perfect - and calls us to be perfect. Tough act to follow. “Oh, it means that?”


Picture on top: Cover of The New York Times Magazine, Sunday Nov. 13, 2011. Title: "The Human Swap - How a single Israeli came to be worth 1,027 Palestinians. Illustration by Tim Enthoven.


March  3,  2012

Quote for Today

"It is sad not to be loved,
but it is much sadder
not to be able to be love."

Miguel de Unamuno [1864-1936],  To A Young Writer.

* * * *  *


Who has loved you in your life?  Have you ever been rejected, dropped, disappointed in love?

Do you agree with Miguel de Unamuno's statement?

Have you ever met someone whom you thought was not able to love?



The title of my homily for this Friday of The First Week of Lent is, “Fair!”

In today’s first reading from  Ezekiel  there is a sentence that stopped me. It’s this: You say, ‘The Lord’s way is not fair!’”

I said to myself, “Andrew, put together your own thoughts on the issue of fairness. Try to get a handle on the "It's Not Fair!" syndrome.

Then it struck me: everyone of us here has to deal with the issue of fairness.

So what’s your take on the question of fairness.  How many times in your life have you said to others, “It’s not fair”?  How many times have you said to God, “It’s not fair”? How many times have you screamed inwardly - perhaps even with a smile on your face, "It's not fair!"

Then I did some thinking about fairness. I have a solution - but before I get to it, let me give some examples.


Someone retires. They worked and worked and worked. They raised kids. Finally they had their last commute and are now off on their own. Their kids had  a good college education. Mom and dad paid a good bit of it. Mom by a job - a second career after momdom. Dad by hard work to move up on the job ladder. Both mom and dad retire and the house is paid for. There is money in the bank. Now they are going to travel. Ugh - cancer creeps into the story and one spouse is dead in 11 months. “It’s not fair!”

Mom and dad made sure their 5 kids went to Catholic School. Three went to Catholic Colleges. Two didn't. Only one out of 5 go to Mass on a regular basis - one who went to a State College. Two kids are divorced. Mom and dad still go to church and see young people there with their families. It becomes a weekly reminder of “What did we do wrong?” as well as, “It’s not fair!” “It’s not supposed to happen this way.”

As priest I hear those 2 scenarios many times.


As I thought about fairness I have a big question.  It’s this: Is the question of fairness underneath much of our anger and frustration in life and all through life?

Is this sitting in every classroom - when it comes to marks?

Does everyone think that outside every school - church - home - place of work - the statue of Justice stands - blindfolded - with the scales of justice hanging  there - instead of the Cross?

Is this question and statement of, "It's not fair!" sitting in every football or basketball game: I practice my butt off and this other kid who never really practices ends up starting and staring every time? Or is it sitting in the stands in the bodies of parents when they watch kids who are doing much better than their kids?  You can almost hear parents and players saying, “The coach is putting that kid in because his father is always screaming or is a big donator or what have you.”  The referee or umpire is giving the home team break after break after break.

Is this issue of fairness sitting there every Christmas when it comes to kids and gifts? Is this the elephant in the room - the elephant called, “Comparisons”?

Is this question part of every time I look in the mirror?

Is this heart and soul in political advertisements and speeches?  It’s not fair what this politician is doing or pushing. Political  pro’s know what the buttons are - and the fairness issue is a major issue.

So is the fairness question underneath us all our lives?


Here’s what hit me last night as I thought about all this. I think Jesus took the fairness issue off the table.  I think Jesus simply came along and said, “Stop saying, ‘It’s not fair!’ and just take it off the table.”

Just pick it up like a piece of paper - take it off the table - and rip it up and put it out of your life.

And the more I thought about this last night, I think Jesus had it with the fairness question. He was spotting it - he was hearing it over and over again. So he said, “Enough already. Put the fairness question out of your life.”

“Wait a minute!” You might say. “When did Jesus erase the fairness question?”

Good question.

He said it over and over again.

He said it, when he said, “The last shall be first and the first shall be last.”

He said it, when the Prodigal Son comes home - after ruining the family name and losing his part of the family inheritance - and the father takes him back into the loving embrace of his arms and family - unconditionally. And what’s the older brother’s complaint. “After all I’ve done around here. After all your son did out there. I won’t welcome him home.” Translation: “Not fair!”

He said it when he said to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, give the shirt off your back.”

He said it loud and clear - with no need for translation - in his great parable of the workers in the vineyard. The last to get paid, after working the whole day, having seen those who just worked an hour, figured they are going to get more. They all get the same pay -and those who worked the whole day screamed. “It’s not fair!”


If I have it correct, what’s happening down at the bottom of all this is that it’s all about me - and that’s the me that has to die. I have expectations. I have a vision. I have the plan. I have the way. I have the truth how things should happen. I know what’s fair!

Hello! There are others - and there are other ways of seeing, doing, planning, expecting how different situations should happen.


So the solution is simply to remove the “It’s not fair!” comment from our vocabulary. Just take it off the table. Just rip it up. Put it out of one’s life.

One of my favorite quotes - and I love to quote it - especially because I heard it and made it my own by putting it into practice. It’s something Thornton Niven Wilder [1897-1975] said in his 1941 play, The Skin of Our Teeth:  “My advice to you is not to inquire why or whiter, but just enjoy your ice cream while it’s on your plate - that’s my philosophy.”

It’s when we start looking at other people’s plate that the fairness question pops up. They got more - or they got some cake - and it’s a corner piece which has more frosting - and I only got ice cream and it’s not as much on my plate as yours. Not fair.

Haven’t we all experiencing the following? Mom and dad take their 3 kids going to Storm Brothers or Kirwin Ice Cream in Annapolis. Each can have 2 scoops of whatever flavor they want. They get their cones. Two of the kids are standing there in Ego Alley enjoying every cold sugary lick. The other kid is not tasting his ice cream as he licks it. He’s angry or frustrated that he didn’t get what his sister gets. It looks so much better than what he got.

I’m diabetic. I have ice cream about 4 times a year - sugar free. But sugar free ice cream has some sugar in it - I’m sure - even though they use artificial sweetener. I loved ice cream all my life - but when I got diabetes, that was it. Now I can stand there and stew and feel sad for myself - or I can bring out the peanut butter jar and spread it and some butter on rye bread - preferably cold butter - but not too much bread. Carbs turn to sugar.

I’m not stupid enough to tell those who lost their spouse not to say, “It’s not fair.” I know it takes time and then some. I hope they can also  enjoy the memories - and to be grateful that your spouse didn’t have to go through the pain of loss they feel right now. Sure it will hit them when they see couples dancing, holding hands, being together at church and socials, etc. etc. etc. Hopefully, the day will come when they take the “It’s not fair!” comment off the table and enjoy the memories and what they are doing in the present moment, with great gratitude if possible.

Be who you is, because if you be who you ain’t, then you ain’t who you is.

Enjoy what you have, because if you think it’s unfair that you don’t have what you think you should have, you still don’t have what you haven’t got.


In the meanwhile I wonder if people can change and do just this - that is if they don’t do it now. Can they take the “It’s not fair!” game off the table?

I’ll close with a tiny story I wrote for the last issue of the Redemptorist magazine, Plentiful Redemption. It’s a totally made up story. The only thing true in it is the bumper sticker - that triggered my imagination and my hopes for people.  I hope these things can happen. The title of the story is, "At The Red Light."


 Sometimes a red light seems like it takes forever.

Sometimes she didn’t dare to play music in her car. A love song from the past would drive her to tears and to anger. So she just sat there in a silent car with nothing but her own thoughts.

Sometimes a red light seems like it takes forever.

She looked in the rear view mirror and the couple in the car behind her were laughing - laughing - laughing. She couldn’t hear them, but she could see they were laughing.

It was a life changing moment - that very moment at that red light.

She had heard about such moments. Just last week at Mass she even prayed for such a moment. She had been angry for 3 years and 3  months now - ever since he walked out on her - for another woman. Everyone said, “Get a good lawyer. Better: get the best lawyer. Soak him. Teach him a lesson!”

She did and she made him pay. “Hey,” she thought, “I have this brand new car. I never had one of these before - especially when the kids were still with us and hadn’t gone off to college with their bills. Then they drove off into their own lives.”

But a good car, a house that was paid for, money, helped, but nothing was a substitute for sitting in a car with another - your husband - laughing and traveling the roads or life together.

Sometimes a red light seems like it takes forever.

Just then she spotted a bumper sticker on the car in front of her. It had just 3 words, “Life is good!”

The light turned green. It was then and there  - in that split second - under that light that she decided, “Enough’s enough! From now on I’m going to enjoy life.”

And that she did for the rest of her life - and after that she never ever minded red lights - even if sometimes they seem like they take forever.

Friday, March 2, 2012


March 2,  2012

Quote for Today

"What people
say behind your back 
is your standing in the community 
in which you live."

Edgar Watson Howe,  Sinner Sermons, 1926

^ ^ ^ ^ ^


Have you ever accidentally overheard someone talking about you? What did they say?  Was it positive or negative stuff?

What will your eulogy sound like?  What will be the three key things someone will say about you?

Thursday, March 1, 2012


He struck out three times
in the State Championship game -
some 27 years ago….

He took up the harmonica at age 8,
the trombone at 10 and the guitar at
13  - and never lasted at any one of
them for more than a month ….

The first girl he really fell in love with
dropped him for another guy - and it
ruined the second half of his senior year
of high school even though every girl
in the school paused as he walked
into the cafeteria at lunchtime ….

He went to two different colleges and one
community college - but never finished
any one of them …. even though ….

He lost  two jobs. He was cut. They kept
others but didn’t keep him. So sometimes
bus rides home from a job he didn’t like were
tough - and he wasn’t getting any younger ….

He put on weight ….

Yet that dark night - in an aisle seat -
with a dim small light overhead - on a 
cold commuter bus - which was 
crawling along because of a winter 
accident just ahead on the road - 
he was picturing his wife and 
his four kids at home - waiting for him -
especially his youngest daughter - and he
laughed semi-out loud while others growled
out loud…. Now he knew first hand the
meaning of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 2 …. And 
he started reading his book again - thinking,
"Now let me see what Sonnet 3 is getting at ...."

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2012


March 1,  2012

Quote for Today

"If you're afraid of being lonely,  
don't try to be right."

Jules Renard [1864-1910]

#  #  #  #  #


Have you ever expressed your opinion - because you knew you were right - and you got slammed and you said, "I'll never speak up again." And you felt all alone - and then lonely?

Have you ever seen someone who wasn't scared to express her opinion and she seemed strong and not afraid of being all alone on a position?

Have you ever shut up - because you didn't want to feel all alone on some position?

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


The tree 
didn’t scream
the day it died, when
the farmer chain sawed it -
slicing it close to the ground -
a clean cut - compared to
what his father felt that day
he was axed - and fell dead -
after many, many hacks.
The pain of winters - cold
cold winters - the standing there
in the sun of so many summers - 
hot hot summers which prepared 
him for this day - the day he died - 
but he knew it was nothing 
compared to those who died 
hung on trees
and to that day the nails were
driven into his hands -
and into his feet - and the spit
remained on his left leg 
till it dried along with his blood
and then he too died,
but then again
there is Spring.

© Andy Costello, Reflections, 2012
Déjà Vu 

February  29,  2012

Quote for Today - The Twenty-Ninth and Last Day of Black History Month

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." 

George Santayana [1863-1952], The Life of Reason, Volume 1, 1905

George also said, "A country without a memory is a country of madmen."

What's your take on Black History Month. I put a quote for each day as well as some YouTube pieces to stimulate thought and talk on Black History Month.

And I'll add the following YouTube piece on February being Black History month in Canada as well.  It seems that having a Black History Month in Europe is catching on here and there. England has had a Black History Month (October) since 1987.  Germany has one in February. From Google pieces, it seems that the movement varies and is being considered.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012



The title of my homily is, “Next Time It Rains, Taste the Rain.”

Next time it rains, stick your tongue out and taste the drops.

Next time it snows, stick your tongue out and taste the flakes.

We’ve seen kids stick their tongues out to taste a rain drop or a snow flake. When was the last time you saw an adult do that?  Better: be that adult. Best: teach your kids and grandkids to do just that.

I don’t drink carbonated drinks any more, but I used to love to pour ginger ale or seven up into a glass and quickly put my chin into the glass just above the soda line and feel the carbonated bubbles hit my chin. Great sensation. Try it. And if caught, smile!

I also hope I never forget to taste the rain and the snow flakes from heaven - and never stop to look at a clear night sky - like the last two nights.


Today’s first reading from Isaiah 55 triggers these thoughts. He talks about rain and snow falling from the sky - watering the earth - helping things grow and blossom - to work with wheat that becomes bread and grapes that become wine.

Then he makes the leap from rain and snow - to words falling from God to us. Taste the words falling on your tongue - your ears - your being. Let them become you. Let them become the bread and the wine, the body and the blood called you.

Then go forth and change the world - like Jesus changes the world. Communion and transubstantiation go together all the time.


As I listened to today’s first reading - as I tasted it - as I let it fall on me last night - I remembered a tiny story from our seminary days - a story we used to practice to be better speakers. I went in search of it and found it. Because we said it out loud in practice so many times in the seminary, I remember it many, many, many times when it rains. It has gotten me to put my face out to feel the rain - and to taste rain drops. The story is entitled, “The Little Queen” and goes like this.

Once upon a time there was a king who failed to please his subjects and was in consequence in instant peril.  Hurriedly collecting such treasures as he could, he and his young queen crossed the frontier one night with a few faithful retainers and settled in a secluded castle in a friendly country.

On the first wet day, the queen was missing. High and low the retainers searched for her, and at last she was discovered in the middle of an open space in the forest, holding up her face to the rain.

Horror-stricken, they hurried to her aid; but she waved them back.

“Do let me stay a little longer,” she pleaded. “All my life I have longed to feel the rain and I was never allowed to.” “All my life there have been coaches and umbrellas.”

And again, the little queen held up her face to the drops.


Questions: we all have our questions. How to live? How to pray? How to read the scriptures? How to forgive? How to receive communion?

Answer: Let the word of God soak into you like the rain - let it fall on you like the snow. For example, in today’s gospel Jesus is teaching his disciples how to pray. He says, “Don’t babble words.” To me that means don’t pray as in a rain storm. Pray softly the Our Father - feel the words - let them soak in - wanting daily bread for all -  as well as learning how to forgive trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. 


Picture on top taken from Internet - by Zandy

February  28,  2012

Quote for Today - Twenty-Eighth Day in Black History Month

“What we play is life, my whole life, my whole soul, my whole spirit is to blow that horn,” he told a doctor a few months before he died in 1971. No, he wouldn't cancel an upcoming date at the Waldorf-Astoria. “The people are waiting for me, I got to do it, Doc, I got to do it.” 

Louis Armstrong - 1901-1971 

Monday, February 27, 2012

YOUR  TOP  10 


The title of my homily is, “Your Top Ten Bible Texts”.

There are various ways to make the Bible one’s own - or to own the Bible.

There are 2 ways to understand that verb, “to own”.

Literalists might say,  when asked if they own the Bible, “Of course, I own a Bible. It’s right there on my bookshelf.” Others might say, “No way. I only own a couple of quotes and stories that are in the Bible.”

How is the Bible part of your life?

I ask these questions - as reflection questions for Lent.


When someone dies and calls the parish for a Funeral Mass here, they are given not a Bible, but Father Joseph Champlin's Through Death to Life booklet - to help prepare the Funeral Liturgy. It helps the family to pick the first and second reading. Father Joseph Champlin did the booklet that we give couples to pick readings for their wedding as well.

In the early 1970’s I took a course on Liturgy at Princeton Theological Seminary given by Father Joseph Champlin. Nice guy - and he gave me an A.  He died in 2008 at the age of 77 -  from Waldenstrom’s - a bone marrow disease. He was from the Diocese of Syracuse.

I like it when a family or a couple pick Bible readings that are not in those booklets. It often means that they or the loved one who has died has a special Bible text that they really owned - or loved. At the same time some favorite Bible texts for funerals and weddings are in those booklets. 


I am grateful for Father Frank Miles, a Jesuit, who died here in Maryland. He was stationed in the Faulkner retreat house down there in Southern Maryland. I knew him when he was in Wernersville, Pennsylvania. I went to him for Spiritual Direction - as well as making a few directed retreats there.  On directed retreats - after listening to someone for a half hour or so - he would give those he was directing a Bible text to chew on and digest - a text usually right on target. I once asked him how many Bible texts he used. And he said something like, “I own about 75 texts.”

I think that’s where I got this idea of one way to understand the Bible is to see what texts one owns.

There are other ways of reading and using the Bible. To see what texts one owns is just one way.


If you want one more Lenten practice, try the owning the Bible Question. Simply jot down 10 Bible texts you own. They’re yours. You don’t have to know the Book, Chapter or Verse. Just jot down a favorite text - and then you can find it afterwards. If you have a computer, just type in what you know about the text into Google and go from there.


What I just said hit me after reading today’s two readings.

Today's two readings also triggered the following thoughts.

Today’s first reading, Leviticus 19: 1-2, 11-18, has a list of prohibitions based on the Ten Commandments.

If asked favorite Bible texts some people might say their key text is the Ten Commandments.

What hit me next was this: well then would someone else might say their favorite text is today's gospel - Matthew 25: 31-46. It's the parable of the Sheep vs. the Goats.

Being careful and not wanting to fall into the sin of pride, I would think that if a person says their favorite text is Matthew 25: 31-46 compared to someone who would pick The Ten Commandments, then they might be saying an awful lot about themselves. It would be sort of the same if some one said that the Beatitudes and not the Ten Commandments was key to them. That would be saying an awful lot about a person as well.

To me the difference would be in the area of the struggle of Paul - between outer law and inner law - which he voices loud and clear in Romans 7. It would take us to what Jeremiah 31:31-34 talks about in that text. There is the law written on stone and there is a  law to come that will be written in the human heart.

The difference takes me to what I see Jesus doing with his struggles in Matthew with the Pharisees - especially Chapter 23. I see Jesus  taking us into a whole different realm or Kingdom in my opinion than being a Ten Commandments' Person. They can be like a list on a refrigerator door - or a granite stone with the Ten Commandments chiseled into it standing outside a court house. To be living one’s life putting Matthew 25 into practice that takes a lot of living and experiencing and spiritual growth. To make Matthew 25: 31-46  one’s own - it would take meeting various folks in need and caring for them. That would flesh out Matthew's words into their lives by our service. We would be incorporating our heart and mind with Jesus' heart and mind. Jesus is calling us to visit the sick or serve say on the St. Vincent de Paul team - or be with those folks who visit the prison up on Jennifer Road.


So in this homily I’m asking about our top 10 Bible texts - the one’s we own. Or if you want lesser homework: pick the bible texts you want at your funeral. Either way, I’ll give you an A.


February  27,  2012

Quote for Today - Twenty-Seventh Day in Black History Month

“People might not get all they work for in this world, 
but they must certainly work for all they get.”  

Frederick Douglas, 1818-1895

Sunday, February 26, 2012



The title of my homily is, “Metaphors for Life.”

Do people have a metaphor for life? If they do, what is it? If they do, when do they put it together or when do they put it on like a coat?

This question hit me from the sermon I preached here yesterday afternoon and this morning at 11 AM.


The first metaphor I used was that of a roller coaster. I told the story about how when we were in the 8th grade a bunch of us boys used to take the subway train to Coney Island - for a couple of hours - not to swim - but mainly to go on the Cyclone.

The Cyclone was the roller coaster in Coney Island and in the New York - New Jersey area. And actually it was mainly the first hill. After that it was easy rolling. The first hill down seemed like it was more than 90 degrees - because it felt like you went down and in and then up again.

We’d go on a few times. I think it was 50 cents - maybe even 25 cents in the early 1950’s. Then we’d go over to Nathan’s for a hot dog and an orange drink and then walk down to the water - not go it - and then head back to the Cyclone for one more ride and then take the train home.

In my homily this morning I asked if that’s a metaphor for life. Sometimes it’s like we’re on a train - flat tracks - a few twists and turns - but not scary. Sometimes it’s like we’re on a roller coaster - up and down, up and down, and twists and turns all around. And sometimes we’re just sitting around, relaxing, enjoying a hot dog and an orange drink.


The second metaphor I used was ice cream cones.

Last Thursday I went downtown Annapolis and then to the Naval Academy for a 45 minute walk. I love to do that - because seeing all those young people running, exercising, throwing a Frisbee, practicing lacrosse, challenges me to try to stay healthy. There was even a group of Naval Academy young people practicing Danny Boy with brass instruments.

But what hit me from that walk downtown and then through the Naval Academy was the people down town Annapolis on Thursday afternoon. I saw lots and lots and lots of people eating ice cream cones.

Could that be a metaphor for life? Looking at your life right now are you just starting with a brand new full ice cream cone - 2 scoops - and you’re just starting to lick away? Or is your ice cream cone almost finished and your hands are sticky and you forgot to get a napkin? Or did your kid drop and plop his ice cream cone - and she’s screaming and you hand her yours? Or you’re diabetic - and I know there’s sugar free ice cream - but it’s really not - and you say, “My ice cream cone days are over. Ugh.”


Lent is a good time to look at your life.

Where are you? Is there something that you need to do for more life?

Are you into self destruction?

How do you see life?


Today’s first reading and today’s gospel - give us two totally different metaphors: the water and the desert - two totally different scenes.

Is the ocean a good metaphor for life. Those of you who sail might like this.

Sometimes all is calm. Sometimes all is storm. Sometimes you get a lot of wind. Sometimes you have to turn the motor on.

Some people see life as a sail from A to B.

The earth is 76 % or so water. Sometimes water gets tricky and wipes out homes and roads, bridges and docks. Sometimes it’s nice and easy.

In today’s first reading all is nice - but there is a great flood.

As it happens every time - when the world goes cafluey, when there are great storms and floods, and a lot is destroyed, a lot of people think God is mad at us for sin and selfishness.

Today’s first reading presents just that as the case.

So if we take what’s happening with water as a metaphor for life, then there are times we need rainbows. Enough is enough.

I would assume that the human call is to be rainbows - that all the rainbow of people around the world helps specific peoples when they are flooded out.

I remember a big enormous priest  - with a big smile - telling me that when Hurricane Agnes devastated parts of Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania and that area, money poured into the diocese from Churches  all over the country - and the bishop called him and other priests in - to go and see people and hand them money. So he had hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hundred dollar bills and he was Santa Claus coming in to see hundreds of people.

Is that a metaphor for life. Sometimes we’re the flooded out. Sometimes we’re the rainbow - giving hope and recovery.

The gospel tells the story in the early part of Jesus’ life when the Spirit drove him into the desert and he wrestled and struggled with Satan. And the story adds that angels ministered to him.

I’ve only been to two deserts. One was 100 miles east of San Diego - in the Salton Sea area of California. I would not have wanted to live there. The other was near Tucson Arizona - and I was preaching there - but it didn’t rain. All is sand. All is heat. All is dry. But they told me if it rains, what a difference. Flowers bloom almost immediately.

Isaiah the prophet took that image in his sermons and poems and said that’s us. If we hide from God - all can dry up - all can die - but if we hang with God the desert can bloom.

What does my life look like? Desert or lake or ocean or bay?

What is the metaphor for my life?


Lent is a good time to look at one’s life and all this stuff.

The theme and thought of my homily is to look at your metaphor for your life.

I’m not sure what mine is. I once heard a speaker and he saw life as a battle. The more he spoke, the more I disagreed with him.

I prefer the roller coaster and the subway train and the Nathan’s hot dogs and orange drink image much better. Amen.



The title of my homily is, “Life Is A Roller Coaster.”

Life is a roller coaster, ups and downs, and then all around.

At 12 or 13 years of age - 8th graders - a bunch of us boys used to love to take the subway train to Coney Island, Brooklyn, N.Y.  for a few hours - head for the Cyclone roller coaster - go on it a bunch of times - go to Nathan’s for a hot dog and orange drink. Then we would walk down to see the water - but not go in. Then we’d head back to the Cyclone  for another ride - laugh - head for the train - and get back home - a nice Saturday afternoon in warm weather.

Looking back now, that adventure, was a metaphor for life.

Sometimes we’re just rolling along - no ups and downs - just getting along in life - a few twists and turns - some stops - like a subway train ride. And sometimes we feel like we’re on a roller coaster. It’s all ups and downs - and all arounds. And sometimes it’s neither. We’re checking out the scenery or we’re enjoying a hot dog and an orange drink -and not too much is happening.


Lent - it’s an annual time to look at our life. We do this on New Year’s Eve and Day - but how long does that last?

Lent - what’s your metaphor for how you see life? Lately, it has been feeling like a roller coaster for me - lots of action - lots of adventures.

Lent - it’s here - we had Ash Wednesday a few days ago - and this year it goes till early April - Palm Sunday is on April 1st this year - and Easter the following Sunday, is April 8th.

Lent - Spring - 2012.  I was wondering if we’ll appreciate Spring this year - because we’ve had such a sweet and easy winter. It still could snow and get cold - but this week we’re into March. How much does weather - and geography - mold - form and shape us?

Once more: what are your plans for Lent this year?

People have expressed gratitude for the Lenten Booklets - so some folks have some spiritual reading as part of their Lent.

The latest issue of America Magazine has a piece on “What  Are You Taking Up?” On the cover it shows some kids and staff from Sacred Heart School in Wallington, New Jersey, watching a big barn fire of blessed palms from the year before. The old tradition was to get the ashes for Ash Wednesday from those burnt palms. Today we get ashes for Ash Wednesday in tiny see through plastic bags from somewhere. The magazine article features 4 suggestions for action and reflection to take up during Lent - in contrast to the old saying, “What are you giving up for Lent?” 4 writers suggest: 1) The Asceticism of Truth. Take long walks, find quiet places, and face the truths about yourself and life that can set you free. John Kavanaugh, a Jesuit at St. Louis University, says, “Stop pretending. We are as fragile as dust.” 2) Gerald Schlabach - a theologian in Minnesota says, “Love the Enemy in Your  Pew.” Liberals, conservatives, gay, straight, old, young, listen to each other. 3) Margaret Pfeil an assistant professor at  the  Notre Dame says “Feed the Hungry With Local Food.” 4) Thomas Massaro a Jesuit at Boston College says, “Get to Know Your Legislators.”

What’s in your plans for this Lent?

There is a notice on our sign up board back in the rectory to sign up for hearing confessions on Wednesday Evenings in Lent. It’s “The Light is On” program that will be in all the parishes of this diocese and many dioceses. Is that in your plans for this Lent?

The article in America is suggesting 4 things. I just mentioned two things: some spiritual reading and the sacrament of confession or reconciliation.

Then there are fasting, praying, and alms giving as the 3 traditional practices for Lent.


How about taking some time to look at one’s life? How’s it going?

I was at celebration at the Naval Academy on Friday afternoon for a Captain retiring from the Navy. I had the opening and closing prayer - so that was a piece of cake. What I liked was I had a chance to listen to two talks: one about  someone and the other by the person himself about his life. Summing up one’s life - at different points in life: good idea.

It hit me loud and clear about the power of comparisons. What’s it like to live in all kinds of different places - here, there and everywhere, all around the world? How does that impact one’s family - one’s spouse and kids? Adjustment. Adjustment. Adjustment.

Sitting there I realized I have also lived in lots of different places as well - but I didn’t have to worry about a family being uprooted. So finally a benefit for celibacy. I've lived in Wisconsin, Ohio, up by Lake Erie in Pennsylvania as well as in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, Upstate and downstate New York, New Jersey, Washington D.C. and 2 different places in Maryland. Once more how do changes, movements, geography, weather, homes, different assignments form who I am?

I remember someone saying a long time ago that one year in a foreign country - provided it’s in a language other than one’s own - is worth 4 years of college.  Is that true? I would assume that the answer to that is: “It all depends.”  I wonder at times how my life would have been if my plans worked out. I became a priest to work in Brazil. Didn’t happen. Maybe my life would have been a lot more like a roller coaster ride if that happened. We can only image with the what if’s.

We’ve all heard John Lennon’s words a dozen times, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Life …. death …. there are 5 more funerals on our board that are coming up. It’s seems that a lot of people are dying. Have you been to any funerals lately? What were you thinking? What were you feeling? It can be like today’s first reading: one’s whole world is flooded out with tears and pain - and we need a Rainbow.

Yesterday,  I was at two funerals. The first one I was the priest at - the second one I attended. 

The first one was for a wonderful woman named Roberta Hart. She used to come to the 12:10 weekday Mass at St. John Neumann's - till she got sick. What an opportunity and a grace to try to help a person deal with sickness and then to help a family deal with the death of their mom. At the wake  on Friday afternoon, I looked at the pictures and the video and heard comments about a wonderful woman.  I had seen her a few months ago for an hour - at Genesis in Severna Park. Once more William Sloan Coffin Jr’s comment about being a minister or a priest hit me. He said the greatest gift is being invited into the secret garden of another’s soul. This one had cancer. Life. Sometimes it’s a roller coaster. Sometimes it’s a train. Sometimes it’s a bed in a nursing home. Then yesterday  morning at the Mass I got to hear a granddaughter - speak for a whole bunch of grand kids - and I heard her take on her grandmother. Then I got to hear a daughter speaking for 5 brothers and one sister tell us how she saw mom and mom saw life and her kids.

These are the things that form and inform me. These moments are great spiritual reading.

Then I shot back to Saint Mary’s to attend a second funeral. It was for Rita Esker - the mother of one of our priests. Rita was alive and kicking my first few years here at St. Mary’s. It was one more moment to reflect upon life - my mom and dad - where I came from - and their funerals.


Near the end of the second funeral Mass, I began saying to myself, I have to run upstairs now and come up with a homily for the 4:30 Mass - 1st Sunday in Lent Mass.

A feeling of tiredness came over me. I’m said to myself, “I’m on the bottom of the hill on the roller coaster ride called today.”

That's where that image came from.

What to preach on? What do you need? Where are you right now in your life? What’s your metaphor for your life right now?

As I thought about the past few days, metaphors for life hit me. 

I was thinking about the nice afternoon walk I took on Thursday - my day off. I was out the front door of St. Mary’s - ran across Duke of Gloucester - down to Ego Alley - and then through the Naval Academy. It’s great doing this around 4 PM - because all these young people in the Naval Academy are running, running - practicing lacrosse now - throwing a Frisbee, a football or having a catch. A group were playing Danny Boy with brass instruments. Life. Oh to be young again….

But sitting there after the funerals,  the image from that Thursday afternoon walk that hit me was ice cream cones. There were lots of folks licking ice cream cones. I thought: is that a metaphor for life? Is that a possible metaphor for a homily?

How would these questions sound?  Looking at your life right now are you just starting with a brand new full ice cream cone - 2 scoops - and you’re just starting to lick away? Or is your ice cream cone almost finished and your hands are sticky and you forgot to get a napkin? Or did your kid drop and plop his ice cream cone - and she’s screaming and you hand her yours? Or you’re diabetic - like me - and I know there’s sugar free ice cream - but it’s really not - and you say, “My ice cream cone days are over. Ugh.”


We’re at the beginning of Lent. What are your plans? Jesus headed into the desert for 40 days - as today’s gospel puts it. Matthew and Luke use great imagination what Jesus went through.

Mark - the earliest gospel - simply says that the Spirit drove him out into that desert and he was tempted by Satan. Sounds like it was some roller coaster ride,  if you ask me - but the gospels also say, the angels ministered to him. I’m sure there were no Nathan’s Hot Dogs and Orange Drink or ice cream there - but it sounds like there were some moments that weren’t as tough as the others. Best of blessings on your Lent his year. Hop on the train. Hope it doesn't become a roller coaster. Amen.

February 26,  2012

Quote for Today - Twenty-Sixth Day in Black History Month

“Rural slaves used to stay after the regular worship services, in churches or in plantation ‘praise houses’, for singing and dancing. But, slaveholders did not allow dancing and playing drums, as usual in Africa. They also had meetings at secret places (‘camp meetings’, ‘bush meetings’), because they needed to meet one another and share their joys, pains and hopes. In rural meetings, thousands slaves were gathered and listened to itinerant preachers, and sang spirituals, for hours. In the late 1700s, they sang the precursors of spirituals, which were called ‘corn ditties’.”

 From Negro

February 25,  2012

Quote for the Day - Twenty-Fifth Day in Black History Month

"Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes doesn't mean he lacks vision."

Stevie Wonder